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GP surgeries to open seven days a week, says David Cameron

02/10/2013

A £50m pilot scheme to trial longer opening hours at GP surgeries will be rolled out across the country, says David Cameron.

Illness knows no time or boundaries, it can occur anywhere, at any time of the day or night. The NHS is our safety net and patients need high standards of care seven days a week, yet many sections of the health service still run on a weekday timetable.

In the pilot scheme family doctors will offer advice over the internet and open longer hours for seven days a week to help ease the pressure on struggling A&E departments, David Cameron has revealed.

The prime minister said he would like GP surgeries to open from 8am until 8pm and over the weekends to fit in with the lifestyles of working people. He said: "A lot of people going to accident and emergency really need a GP rather than accident and emergency, so I think this pilot scheme …is a very good step forward. Let's see if we can have GPs' surgeries open 12 hours a day, seven days a week so you can always get that appointment you need."

Proposals will first be trialled in nine areas to see if they can be made to work, with cash going to groups of GPs who come up with the most efficient ways to extend opening hours. Under the scheme, GPs may be able to see some patients by video consultation over the internet or give advice by email.

Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, is due to talk about the initiative in his speech to the Conservative party conference, "We live in a 24/7 society and we need GPs to find new ways of working so they can offer appointments at times that suit hard-working people. Cutting-edge GP practices here in Manchester are leading the way, and we want many more patients across the country to benefit."

24hour care does not stop with GPs and although many consultants already work at weekends, they cannot work effectively if the back-up services, such as pharmacy and physiotherapy are not there. When a doctor does a ward round, they rely on the whole team behind them, including administration support. That support also extends in to the community, where integration with social care services would enable a patient to return home and still be cared for when they no longer require a hospital bed. There is a long way to go to providing a complete 7 day service but this is an encouraging step in the right direction

What do you think of 7 day health service? Are they needed? Which services should they included? Click on the Your Say page and tell us what you think!

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